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Bloomfield Hills basks in remarkable turnaround

David Goricki
The Detroit News
John Paddock

Bloomfield Hills – Derek Lynch was tired of suffering through losing seasons at Bloomfield Hills and made sure he would be a part of changing the culture before ending his high school football career.

Lynch, a 5-foot-5, 145-pound senior, was part of Bloomfield Hills’ 1-8 team a year ago, then joined his teammates in a grueling offseason workout plan to be physically ready to change the results.

Bloomfield Hills has done just that, moving from the OAA Red Division to the Blue Division and winning the championship while going unbeaten, 9-0.

“We worked hard all offseason, from the time last season ended,” said Lynch, who has enjoyed the team’s success with his twin brother, receiver / safety Devon. “We knew we could get better so we took advantage of the opportunity and continued to work, and it’s showing off this season.”

Lynch closed the regular season in style, rushing for 126 yards while helping Bloomfield Hills to a 21-0 win over Lake Orion, a team from the OAA Red that won the Division 1 state title in 2010 and advanced to the state semifinals in 2012.

“It was huge for us,” said Lynch of the win over Lake Orion. “We proved a lot of people wrong who said we couldn’t beat an OAA Red Division team.”

Lynch, who runs a 4.54 40, is at his best when he gets the ball in space. He plays running back, slot and cornerback, and returns kicks. On the season Lynch has rushed for 948 yards and 15 TD.

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“I like running back most, like getting the ball quick and just being able to go,” Lynch said. “I had a lot of opportunities to get the ball in my hands. The coaches have confidence in me. They just give me the ball and my line does a great job. I just see a hole and run through it.”

Next up is a Division 1 pre-district showdown with West Bloomfield (5-4) – from the OAA Red – Friday night at Bloomfield Hills. West Bloomfield defeated Bloomfield Hills 47-6 last season and 61-24 two years ago.

“It’s going to be great,” said Lynch of facing West Bloomfield. “We know what we’re capable of so we’re going to go out and give them a fight.”

Lynch thinks Bloomfield Hills has a chance to beat West Bloomfield this season due to the addition of quarterback John Paddock, a transfer from Birmingham Brother Rice.

“It changed the offense when he came in,” said Lynch of Paddock. “He can make a lot of throws that a lot of other quarterbacks at this level can’t make, so it allows us to do a lot more on offense.”

Paddock threw for 138 yards and three TDs against Lake Orion. For the season he has passed for 1,649 yards and 21 TD.

Dan Loria

“I came in from Rice and I think the mentality definitely changed in the offseason,” Paddock said. “All the receivers and running backs went out and threw the ball around with me after school, even in the snow. We knew we had great athletes, just needed a few missing links and guys stepped up.

“We feel we can compete with anybody so the West Bloomfield game should be competitive, a lot of fun.”

Paddock, a 6-0 junior, plays with a chip on his shoulder because of his size while running Bloomfield Hills’ multiple-set offense.

“I feel what separates me is my decision-making and on-field leadership,” said Paddock. “You see all these guys getting offers who are like 6-4, 6-5 – that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about decision-making, who can lead the team the best and who can get victories, and I feel I’ve done that really well.”

This is the fourth year of the Bloomfield Hills program since the merger of Lahser and Andover.

Dan Loria guided Lahser for 12 years, helping build a perennial OAA Blue power, advancing to the Division 3 state semifinals in 2002, 2005 and 2008.

“The win over Lake Orion was a big program win for us and gives us a lot of confidence going into the West Bloomfield game,” Loria said.

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When Lahser merged with Andover, Loria took over as head coach and Bloomfield Hills competed in the top Red Division, struggling to records of 3-6, 2-7 and 1-8 before moving down to the Blue.

Enrollment climbed from 900 at Lahser to more than 1,800 with the merger, but Andover didn’t even field a varsity team in its final year.

“The biggest hurdle we had to get over was when the schools went together they put us up into the Red because of (enrollment), but it was tough because (Andover) didn’t have a program,” Loria said. “Things didn’t go so well and we were just trying to keep the kids focused, for them to stay with the program, telling them things will work out.

“This group of seniors is the first class of the merger, who came in as freshmen. They stuck it out and have been rewarded. I’m proud of them, how they stuck with it and turned things around.”

Senior safety / running back Elijah Sherman is one such Bloomfield Hills player whose work in the weight room paid off. Sherman is 5-10 and 175 pounds now after competing last season at 150.

“I hit the weights hard and have been eating good and it’s resulted in getting a lot of things done on the defensive side of the ball,” said Sherman, who has two interceptions and two forced fumbles. “We believe we can stop their (West Bloomfield) high-scoring offense and their quarterback (Bryce Veasley), who can throw the ball really well. We’re looking forward to the game.”